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Everything I do, everything I accomplish, any successes I achieve in life, it all goes back to my mom.
Growing up in the sertão, the backcountry, in Alagoas, each morning I would wake up bright and early looking to play football. It was all I wanted to do. I’d get dressed quickly and head out into the street, where the games were, and look around and … it would be an ocean of boys. Every day.
No girls. Not a single one. Just boys.
Trying to push my way in.
No other girls in our town had the audacity. They never looked to join in. They probably didn’t want to get picked on or called names. But me? What can I tell you? I loved football too much to be deterred. So I was going to do it no matter what. I didn’t care how mad people would be.
When the boys would talk shit to me, I would just ignore them and keep playing. Then, when I got home after the games, it was my mother who gave me my strength.
My mom, she would leave in the morning super, super early for work. She had to work long into the night to support me and my three siblings. Then, after a long day, when she got back at 7 or 8, she would have to hear the talk from the people in the neighborhood.
What’s that girl doing running around with the boys?
Why are you letting your daughter play a man’s game?
What is she trying to prove?
They talked so much shit to her back in the day. So so so much shit.
And my mom, God bless her, she just looked at those people and … absolutely ignored what they had to say. She never came to me and told me to stop.
She just let me play.
You have to understand: My mom is very religious. She’s Catholic, and very devoted to her faith. So to her it was like, “If Marta is meant to play football, God will show her the way. So let her be.” That’s all she would say. And then … she would come in the house, cook for her four kids, make sure we had everything we needed, and get ready to wake up early the next morning and do it all over again.
It was so inspiring to me. Seeing how she lived her life, and feeling the support she gave me in letting me play football so that I could be happy. That gave me so much self-confidence.
It was her gift to me. In our family, we turn every No into a Yes. No matter how long it takes.
She allowed me to do what I loved. No matter what anybody said. My mom is why I am who I am.
And I will be thinking about her as I run out onto the pitch for this Women’s World Cup. Because my life and this game … they have changed so much since those days back in the sertão.
This is going to be my sixth World Cup. And it really is incredible when I think about how far we’ve come.
Not too long ago, those of us who love women’s football, we used to fight to achieve a better structure. Now we have it. We used to call for more investment. Now we have more investment. We would ask for increased exposure. Now we have that, too. We’ve still got a ways to go, but I think maybe people don’t fully realize just how far we’ve progressed.
I mean, think about this: When I was a little girl, there wasn’t even really a woman footballer I could look up to and hope to become one day. I followed Rivaldo because I loved the way he played, and he was a lefty like me, but it was also about the fact that there were no women in the spotlight like he was. I had no choice but to pick someone on the men’s side.
Now we have our heroes, too. And that makes me so proud. But now the question is….
What will we do with all that progress?
“Speaking of the future ... Can I be honest? I am so tired of talking about it! I don’t want to be asked about Marta anymore.”- Marta
We’re about to play in the biggest Women’s World Cup of all time.
I am so happy knowing that little girls all over the world will be able to watch us out on the pitch living out our dreams. That stuff, it matters to me. Truly. I think about it often.
It makes me so proud that maybe there are kids out there watching me, and that it may inspire them to reach for the stars. That would mean the world to me. It would be more valuable to me than any titles or medals or trophies that I have won. Being someone little girls could look up to, someone who showed them their dreams could come true? Having an impact like that, having that as a legacy? That, to me, is all I could dream of.
So while I want to win this World Cup more than anything, and am looking forward to giving every ounce of my energy to reaching that goal, to be honest with you, whether or not we are fortunate enough to win it all, right now I am mainly just feeling very grateful for this moment. And for everything that has led up to it.
We have come so far. And I am beyond excited to see where things go next.
When I’m done playing and retired and an old lady, I want to be able to see the fruits of that progress every single day, all over the world. And, actually, that reminds me: There’s this dream that I have sometimes. Maybe you could call it a vision. I’m a bit older, and I arrive at a huge park with tons of fields. Little girls and boys are playing football everywhere you look. I have one of those cheap folding chairs, a drink in hand — maybe it’s a coffee, but, depending on the day, you know … maybe it’s something else. I find a good spot right on the side of the pitch, open up my chair, and plop down just like the Americans do. I take a big sip of my drink, and then I just … watch those kids playing the game they love. The game we all love.
With a giant smile on my face.
Talk about pure joy, right? That’s the dream for me. And I believe this year’s World Cup matches will have us well on our way to that type of future.
Speaking of the future ... Can I be honest? I am so tired of talking about it! I don't want to be asked about Marta anymore.
This summer is not about me.
It is not only Marta.
It’s never been only Marta.
And it will never be only Marta.
It is about all of us. It is about BRAZIL. Just as it should be.